By Patricia Belyea
I’m a lucky woman. Occasionally packages of old Japanese fabrics fall from the sky into my mailbox: indigo panels that a great uncle collected in Japan almost 100 years ago; precious fabrics stashed for years in a mother’s sewing room; and more. To be the recipient of these unexpected gifts is an honor.
Art quilter Katharina Litchman of NYC sent me six single meters of katazome-dyed cotton. Created for a special kimono company in Japan, each piece was double-sided with petite indigo and white patterns—for a total of 12 patterns.
Katharina had mail ordered the yukata cottons from Kasuri Dyeworks in Berkeley over 20 years earlier. Recognizing that she would never use the fabrics, Katharina forwarded them to me.
I immediately got to work. I wanted to make repeated blocks for a quilt using homemade curved templates.
Once on my design wall, a family member commented: Those look like watermelon from Mars! And they did.
To change the pace of the design, I added a large area filled with loops. The sewing required lots of partial seams. And, the flat graphic look of the design was created by pressing all my seams out.
The two parts of the quilt were connected with an uber-thin strip of pieced solids.
For the back of the quilt, I chose an intriguing yukata cotton filled with other-worldly glyphs straight from Mars. Big blocks were pieced together with skinny pink sashing.
A 7-year old visitor, Alba Cash, drew a picture of a man from Mars that sparked my quilting idea. I asked long-arm quilter Shelly Pagliai of Prairie Moon Quilts to stitch Alba's drawing (with permission, of course) in the loopy area.
The wonderful 3-foot man from Mars did not show up well. So I hand-quilted along Shelly’s lime green stitching with white No. 5 perle cotton—to create the contrast I wanted.
Onward, into the bathtub to prep the quilt for blocking on the floor. Then a trim to square it up. To finish, I made colorful facings with pieces from my overflowing collection of solid scraps.
When I started on this project, I really did not know where it was going. In the end I was treated to a trip to Mars!
Here’s the quilt—landing in our field.
Title: Watermelon From Mars
ABOUT US: Okan Arts, a petite family business, is co-owned by mother-daughter duo Patricia Belyea and Victoria Stone. Patricia and Victoria sell Japanese textiles online, host creative quilting experiences, and lead quilting & textile tours to Japan.
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